With COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations increasing in the state due to a contagious variant of the virus, we are reminded the pandemic is not yet behind us. The road to recovery from the pandemic as well as the economic recession will be long for California children, families, and individuals. And the effects of the past year-plus will continue to be felt, particularly on our mental health and well-being.
Even before the pandemic, millions of Californians were coping with mental health conditions or substance use disorders and too many also confronted challenges in accessing care. According to a recent Kaiser Family Foundation analysis, nearly 1 in 3 California adults reported symptoms of anxiety or depression during a two-week period in late April and early May 2021. Additionally, C.D.C. data shows that more than 9,400 Californians died due to drug overdose over a 12-month period ending in January 2021, which represents a 46.7% increase in overdose deaths over the previous year. And this is likely an undercount.
State policymakers must strengthen behavioral health services with permanent, ongoing support for Californians facing mental health challenges today, and before the next crisis hits.
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